Alt.Religions.Scientology - cult spams the network Fredric Rice The Skeptic Tank (818) 335

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* Alt.Religions.Scientology - cult spams the network Fredric Rice The Skeptic Tank (818) 335-9601 Clocking in on the "Just-when-you-thought-they-couldn't- get-any-lower" port: As most members of FidoNet and Internet know, the "church" of Scientology has been engaged in a war against Internet and BBS SysOps around the world in an attempt to silence both their critics as well as those (usually ex-Scientologists) who continually expose both the contents of and criminal activities of the "church." The focus of their war against the networks has always been alt.religion.scientology and, to a far smaller extent, a few FidoNet forums, yet they have also tried to silence critics out in the real world. Time Magazine, the Washington Post, television news, and even makers of Public Broadcasting documentaries which have exposed the activities of the cult have been attacked, both in the courts as well as physically in person. (Members of the cult even vandalized the automobiles of PBS employees in an attempt to silence them.) In the past (as reported by newspapers and magazines around the world) the cult has repeatedly tried to illegally remove the alt.religion.scientology forum from Internet, forging messages to do so. Additionally, unknown members of the cult have been assigned ("Hatted" in the jargon of the cult) to systematically forge cancellation messages of other participants' messages. The latest low to which the cult had stooped to has been to try to spam the forum with _thousands_ of pointless, meandering, we've-seen-it-all-before propaganda messages daily. Those who may be new to FidoNet or Internet might not know how the two technologies are different. In FidoNet messages are created on thousands of systems, collected and grouped by echo tag, and sent to a series of centralized locations and messages which are dropped into the datastream are not recallable by the author. On Internet, however, an individual may cancel a posting at a later date which has the effect of requesting that all systems which have the designated message identification number be deleted. A system then has the option of removing the canceled message or not. Additionally, in FidoNet we employ AreaFix to turn on or turn off subscribed echo forums whereas in Internet, a rmgroup is sent to a centralized location to have the entire group removed from all the mail servers which honor the rmgroup. The last way in which the two are different is the control of message spamming. In FidoNet a disruptive influence is quite easily removed simply by asking the SysOp or the SysOp's network coordinator to remove someone. (Unless said someone is Steve Winter. ) Internet doesn't have that ability. Internet Service Providers must be asked to remove a disruptive individual from a newsgroup yet, if it's a commercial account, most ISP's don't _like_ removing someone from having access to newsgroups based simply upon a rash of complaints filed against them. The primary reason for not wishing to remove disruptive individuals seems to be the cries of censorship which plagues ISPs these days. (While America Online has no ethical or moral qualms against imposing censorship, nearly every other ISP does to different degrees.) FidoNet and Internet do share a common problem with removing a disruptive individual, however, and members of the Scientology cult have been putting this failing into good use: Someone who is ejected from a FidoNet newsgroup may simply locate another system which carries the echo and thus continue to post until he is once again ejected from that system. It then becomes an easy exercise to go through a list of systems known to carry the echo and an individual can live a long, long time -- provided they are willing to expend the time, money, and effort. The Scientology cult has been picking up free hours from a broad spectrum of Internet Service Providers and posting thousands upon thousands of messages -- until the ISP puts a stop to it at which point another account is used on the same ISP for the same network abuse or another ISP is used altogether. The Scientology cult has drawn attention to itself around the world, even prompting a report from Taz. Cornelius Krasel, U Wuerzburg, (Dept. of Pharmacology, Versbacher Str. 9 D-97078 Wuerzburg, Germany, email: phak004@rzbox.uni-wuerzburg.de ) offered a translation of the article: [the office] Robots suffocate the discussion Since several weeks, the usenet newsgroup "alt.religion.scientology" is being flooded by anonymous nonsense contributions. Shouting down used to be not quite so easy: one needed a majority on their side. It has become more convenient in the Internet. The automatical electronic down-shouter squashes any discussion - without any majority. In the usenet group alt.religion.scientology followers and adversaries of the science-fiction author, L. Ron Hubbard, discuss enthusiastically about his odd teachings. Recently, somebody has been trying to squash this discussion. His method, "vertical spamming", is easy: in a short period of time, a huge amount (in this case almost 10.000) of meaningless, computer-generated messages are posted in the group. This is supposed to overload the computers, but especially the participants of the discussion which have to work themselves first through hundreds of robot-letters before being able to read a sensible contribution. Unnerved, many finish the discussion. It is almost impossible for the net community to defend itself against this kind of attack. The nonsense would have to be sorted out by hand, short-lived throw-away accounts hide the true originator. Nevertheless, the American Jon Noring (noring@netcom.com) believes to have found the true cause: the Church of Scientology itself. He has placed a petition in the internet which is supposed to lead Scientology to cease the spamming (to sign the petition, send an empty email to petition-1@netcom.com until June 30th). Noring's clues for the sect's authorship: all the jamming contributions are pro-scientology, nothing but short excerpts from a Scientology publication, and all start with the same introductory sentence which states that "a lot of wrong information about Scientology is being distributed in alt.religion.scientology". When, some time ago, "secret" teaching documents of the sect had been published on the net, Scientology had used similar "throw-away-accounts" and normed texts to take the publications back - why, Noring asks, remains the sect silent this time, although large parts of the injected postings contain a copyright mark? The silent approval would speak for a participation of the money-greedy organization. In addition, Noring thinks that Scientologists planned such spamming for a long time - the secret plan can be found in his directory at ftp://ftp.netcom.com/pub/no/noring/spamplan.txt Stefan Kuzmany: kuzmany@ifkw.uni-muenchen.de TAZ Nr. 4953 of 06/20/1996 page 12 Internet 77 lines TAZ report Stefan Kuzmany More information on the attack can be found at: Spam Information at http://daemon.apana.org.au/~fjc/scn/spam.html More Spam Information at http://www.bway.net/~keith/spam/spam.htm It's important, I feel, to get a broad-spectrum exposure of what is being done to Internet out into both FidoNet and the real world as I can expect the success or failure of the attacks to be an object lesson for others who might feel the need to emulate the Scientology cult's activities. In FidoNet we have yet to experience this level of attack -- we have safeguards. Knowing what type of activities "hatted" members of the cult are expected to engage in before hand will doubtless keep most people from joining the cult. Knowing that technological fixes for such abuse exists and that spamming to silence critics is a futile and embarrassing prospect should also help to keep this type of abuse down. Spread the word.

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